Trump administration loosens regulations on products containing the carcinogenic mineral asbestos

In the midst of dismantling environmental protections, allowing the shooting of bears in their dens, and calling for forests to be cleared, the Trump administration has also taken one environmental action that’s been under my radar. According to the article below, from The Architects Newspaper (click on screenshot), companies can now create new products containing asbestos, one of the most carcinogenic substances known to humans, without the Environmental Protection Agency being able to evaluate their second-hand effects.

One of the most dangerous construction-related carcinogens is now legally allowed back into U.S. manufacturing under a new rule by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Fast Company recently reported that on June 1, the EPA authorized a “SNUR” (Significant New Use Rule) which allows new products containing asbestos to be created on a case-by-case basis.

According to environmental advocates, this new rule gives chemical companies the upper hand in creating new uses for harmful products in the United States. In May, the EPA released a report detailing its new framework for evaluating the risk of its top prioritized substances. The report states that the agency will no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments.

It’s bad enough that 60 countries absolutely ban the use of asbestos, but the U.S., while restricting its use, still allows it to be used. It is so toxic, I’ve heard, a that a single inhaled fiber can cause the invariably fatal cancer mesothelioma (Steve Gould was one of the rare survivors). When I had my lab renovated after arriving in Chicago in 1986, they found asbestos insulation around the overhead pipes. My lab was promptly declared a hazardous area, and it had to be decontaminated by walling it off with heavy plastic, putting the room under negative pressure, and requiring the workers to wear moon suits. Our building manager at that time, Dennis, was a prince of a man, but he’d worked with asbestos in shipbuilding plants earlier in his life, and, sadly, he got mesothelioma and died on our watch. It was a terrible loss.

Asbestos should simply not be used, as it poses a risk to everyone exposed to it. But what does Trump or his new EPA care?

Here’s a scary sidelight on the asbestos industry from the same article, again involving Trump

As the world’s largest exporter of asbestos, the Russian company Uralasbest operates an enormous open mine nearly half the size of Manhattan in a mountainous town 900 miles northeast of Moscow, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The company has support from the government and President Vladimir Putin, even though their economic success exposes the local residents to major health risks. Once referred to as “the dying city,” Asbest’s residents have reported the carcinogenic dust is often found as a thick film over garden vegetables, laundry lines, and even on the floors of their homes.

Earlier last month, The Washington Post noted that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the ADAO had discovered a controversial post on Uralasbest’s Facebook page showing photos of company pallets stamped with a seal of U.S. President Donald Trump’s face. Trump has long been vocal about his skepticism on the harmful effects of asbestos, citing in his 1997 book, The Art of the Comeback, that anti-asbestos efforts were “led by the mob.” In 2012, he tweeted that the World Trade Center might not have burned had the fire-retardant material not been removed from the towers. It’s estimated that 400 tons of asbestos fiber went into the structures before the developers stopped it from being used further in 1971.

Here’s a photo of those pallets. (I cannot vouch for their accuracy, but the Washington Post must have. Perhaps they were Photoshopped by the Russians.) But there’s no denying that Trump is a pro-asbestos guy. After all, it isn’t his life at risk.


h/t: Woody


  1. Posted August 7, 2018 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    The only thing I can say is – This is why congress is dead. When they don’t stop this kind of thing, they are useless.

    • eric
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      But..but…but…if I stop corporations from building lethally poisonous buildings today, the backlash from voting against my parties’ President might cost me votes in November! And without a united front, the Democrats might gain more power!

      Surely you can weigh those sides, right?

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    For a real treat, y’all should do a Google search for old asbestos ads. Yessir! Some are real corkers, ‘yer darn tootin’!

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    Just like you, Jerry, to see the glass as 99% empty instead of 1% full. Think what this will do to bring back manufacturing jobs in the American air-filter sector. #MAGA

    • Adrian
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:21 am | Permalink

      MAGA? Make America Go Away.

    • neil
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:39 am | Permalink

      ..and there’ll be a yuuge boost for the healthcare industry, and a yuuuge rise in deaths amongst Mexican construction workers (who’ll be the ones who have to work with the stuff).
      Another win for the Republicans!

  5. Historian
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    The depths of depravity of this administration is bottomless. Yet, his hardcore cult followers do not care about this policy or any policy that Trump approves of. The only thing they care about is that Trump placates their fear of a changing world that scares the hell out of them. In a way this asbestos policy is fitting. It turns the clock back to 1950, just where his supporters want to be.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      I think a predictable joke about this one on late nite TV will be something like: “I swear, Trump is trying more and more insane stuff just to see at what point will his base finally say ‘WTF?!!'”

    • eric
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      I expect the places which get newly legal asbestos in their buildings will be poor small communities…Trump country.

      It will be interesting to see the mental gymnastics…when it’s pointed out that Trump legalized it, are they going to suddenly love asbestos in their own homes and schools? Are they going to claim the deep state tricked him into it? That this wasn’t actually an executive branch decision, but that Congressional democrats passed some law legalizing it?

      Another thing to watch for will be the GOP conngresscritters from states that decide to fight back and pass state regulations forbidding it. Trump is very likely to have DOJ argue states can’t impose such regluations if the federal government has allowed it. Are the GOP reps from such states going to support him, or their own states?

  6. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    You say the Russian company Uralasbest is world’s largest exporter of asbestos? Pure coincidence, just like the 87 (and counting) established contacts between Trump associates and Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      It is a deadly corruption.

    • Posted August 7, 2018 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Trump actually met Presidents Nieto and Sisi and Prime Minister Netanyahu during the campaign. Foreigners aren’t inherently scary.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 7, 2018 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        Jeez, did any of those countries — Mexico, Egypt, or Israel — hack into the DNC computers, or run a malign influence operation, or meet with the Trump campaign “brain” trust (such as it is) to offer dirt on Hillary, the way the Russians did?

        No? Guess they’re not comparable then, are they?

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:39 pm | Permalink


  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    The Donald loves him some asbestos:

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      You know this dumb bastard told California they wouldn’t have all these fires if they would stop the water running into the ocean.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

        Who ya gonna listen to, pansy-ass environmentalists or guys who drill for oil and clear-cut forests?

  8. dabertini
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Mueller better get on his high horse before the trumpites ban sunscreen and green leafy veg.

  9. Merilee
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Next will be extra-lead paint. What a venomous moron!

  10. Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    To my great shame, Canada is one of the world’s largest miners of asbestos (second only to Russia, I believe). The federal government has never been able to muster up enough will-power to shut the industry down since it wields a sizeable voting block in the east (especially in Quebec).

    It’s virtually impossible to get approval to use asbestos in construction in Canada (though it isn’t outright banned), but we have no problem exporting it. Right now, more than 95% of our asbestos goes to Asia, but perhaps this change at the EPA will encourage the exports to expand into the US. That’s bad news for everyone.

  11. Rod Wilson
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    When my 7 and 6 year-old kids refuse do their chores I threaten to send them to work in the coal mines. They always wearily respond that its against the law for kids to do work like that. Maybe when Trump gets around to rescinding the child labor laws my threats will have a little bit more force.

  12. Michael Scullin
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    My wife’s father died of mesothelioma contracted while working on construction of houses. It is a horrible way to go.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Luckily they cannot export it to Sweden. Their loss.

    But speaking of “under my radar”, did not know that Trump himself makes a joke about his vocation; I cannot stand watching buffoons very long. But yesterday I saw a video that seems legit where he mimicked how he saw presidents. So he is a joke as a “president”, and he means to be.

    Isn’t it fun what elections in failed democracies can do to their voters? (Not really.)

  14. Mark R.
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    At least he’s been called out on his bullshit water remarks.

    Maybe they should dump asbestos on the fire.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      Oops this was supposed to be a response to Randall’s comment below Ken’s.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted August 7, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

        Yes, maybe he will have them spray all the trees with asbestos. Just as well kill all the animals in the forest too.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          I don’t think the Donald’s much of an animal lover. Far as I know, he doesn’t have a pet — making him the first president in memory who didn’t at least pretend to be fond of dogs and cats.

          Then there’s his Kray-like kids, who go on safari to slaughter endangered species.

  15. stuartcoyle
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    We banned Asbestos in Australia after much debate and lobbying from the biggest miners and manufacturers. James Hardy Industries, the largest manufacturer has liabilities for asbestos-related disease now exceeding $500m. They moved the company to the Netherlands to avoid much of the stigma and legal action.

    Wittenoom in Western Australia is a ghost town and declared contaminated area because of asbestos mining. It will probably remain so forever.

  16. Mark R.
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    That article would be a good read for the new sect of Trumpites who would rather be a Russian than a Democrat. Or perhaps they wouldn’t mind if Trump turned America into Russia; Trump could be POTUS for the rest of his life; who cares if asbestos covers cities, mixed with soot and smog and acid rain? Who cares if we start rounding up minorities (and democrats), or murdering Trump’s political opponents, reporters and detractors. What a wonderful country it could be! Solves the Russian hacking problem as well.

    I wonder when the EPA will lift the ban on DDT.

  17. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    What set of correctly cased ASCII characters could put it in a nutshell without making jokes? I’ll try:

    If Obama had campaigned to bring asbestos back? I like to think I’d have voted Romney.

    Asbestos – there’s no room to argue there. Even with lead the worst person can make up hand waving arguments- not so with asbestos.

  18. Barbara Radcliff
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    This is appalling. How can anyone be so ignorant? I watched a friend die from mesothelioma. She had never worked in an asbestos industry, but had had house renovations some 30 years ago. Being a nice person she would take the workers cups of tea and sweep up the mess that they had left at the end of the day. This was apparently how she was exposed to asbestos. I keep thinking that the DT regime could not possibly do anything more outrageous, and keep being proved wrong.

  19. Greg Geisler
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Appalling. What’s next, bringing back thalidomide?

    I was a member of the ‘Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers’ union back in the late 70’s. Application of asbestos was illegal but we often had to do tear-offs of asbestos (in full haz-mat suits and respirators–I did one at a nuclear power plant in Illinois). Average life expectancy in the trade was 55 years. Suffice it to say that I left it after a few years because of how toxic it was. Many of the guys I worked with did not and are no longer around.

    This President and his Republican lapdogs in Congress do not care one iota about human lives.

    • mikeyc
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Thalidomide and its drug relatives never left.

      Thalidomide and its analogs have been used to treat Kaposi’s sarcoma, Chron’s disease and Hansen’s disease (leprosy) though it has not been approved in the US for those uses. Thalidomide in analog form however are approved drugs in the treatment of a variety of myelodysplasias and cancers. The analogs are known as lenalidomide, pomalidomide and apremilast and they have the same mechanism of action as Thalidomide – so people on these drugs must also take steps to prevent pregnancy.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        Well, I fail to see the parallel. Thalidomide is dangerous for the fetus in pregnant women. One jst has to avoid getting pregnant while using it. The sickness of thalidomide was that is was promoted as a cure for ‘morning sickness’ during pregnancy.
        Asbestos id dangerous tout court especially the ‘grey’ asbestos but the ‘white’ too.
        I guess you’ll have leaded petrol and paint back soon in the USA, lead poisoning makes one crazy, and hence more likely to vote for Mr Trump.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

          I get a kick out of the phrase “I fail to […]”


          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted August 9, 2018 at 3:12 am | Permalink


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          Asbestos id dangerous tout court especially the ‘grey’ asbestos but the ‘white’ too.

          I think you mean “blue” asbestos – crocidolite, an amphibole mineral. There are several other minerals that have an asbestiform habit, but crocidolite is probably the worst.
          A few weeks ago I was playing tour guide to some Germans at Eilean Donan castle in the highlands. (Probably on the lid of a jigsaw somewhere near you – or a biscuit tin.) While mooching along the foreshore nest to the car park I found some nice bits of an asbestiform mineral. To properly identify it, I’d need to section it to put it under the polarising microscope, which … well I don’t feel the need to do that. But it’s a nice specimen nonetheless. The area is well known for it – all along that stretch of coast nearly to Glen Shiel. During the war they were looking at whether or not to mine it. Then the Enigma code was cracked and it became easier to bring the stuff over the Atlantic.
          The Germans were petrified when I explained what it was. [Shrug] I’ve worked with asbestos before – labouring to clean up sites with asbestos lagging – it’s definitely stuff to be careful of, but it’s less dangerous that hydrocarbons and radioactive sources.

          I guess you’ll have leaded petrol and paint back soon in the USA,

          Oh hell yes – and don’t forget to rescind the Montreal Treaty banning the manufacture and new use of ChloroFluoroCarbon compounds too.
          Useless pieces of information #437 : tetra-ethyl lead (CH3CH2)4Pb – was developed for automotive use by Thomas Midgley at General Motors in the early 1920s. After getting that process established (and with it, establishing a production line of worker’s corpses), Midgley moved on to GM’s Frigidaire division where he developed a series of clean, non-toxic refrigerating agents – the CFCs. Awarded several prestigious prizes for his chemical work, he remains one of the more controversial chemists of the inter-war period.
          Lead paint is unlikely to come back. Rutile (commercially “tioxide” and probably other names) has better covering power and doesn’t yellow with age compared to “lead white”. Unless, of course, one of the Trump family owns a cerussite mine, in which case it’ll become mandatory.

          • jahigginbotham
            Posted August 10, 2018 at 2:00 am | Permalink

            From Wikipedia (on rutile and other forms of titanium dioxide):
            Titanium dioxide dust, when inhaled, has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as an IARC Group 2B carcinogen, meaning it is possibly carcinogenic to humans.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted August 11, 2018 at 6:35 am | Permalink

              [Shrug]. Oxygen is poisonous. Everything is poisonous at some dosage. It’s just a question of keeping the dose down. I used to live in Aberdeen, the most radioactive city in the country. I’ve drilled natural rock formations that would be classified as low-level radioactive waste if anyone had bothered to measure the radiation levels.
              The toxicology of rutile is a lot less worrying than the toxicology of lead.

  20. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    There are many widely used asbestos substitutes such as Cellulose Fibre.

    The World Trade Centers were eventually fireproofed with a substance known as Blaze-Shield with more mineral wool and binders but no asbestos. It was tested extensively at Underwriters Laboratories and performed well. This is designed to be effective with normal office fires.
    It remains a bit unknown whether this would be as good as asbestos in such an ultra-hot inferno as was produced on 9/11, because the testing at temperatures that high had not been done.
    Some have argued that other asbestos substitutes would have performed better.
    (See ).

    Either way, FOX News is the one major media outlet that has run stories criticizing the removal of asbestos from the World Trade Center, stories in 2001 and 2007.

  21. Christopher
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    My little 1930’s built shack has asbestos siding shingles, as do quite a few old houses around here. Guess I’ll just wait to die slowly and painfully, as there is little I or the thousands of other low income renters and owners can do about it. Many just cover them up with other siding and let someone else deal with it. State government rules only cover contractors, as far as I can tell.

    • Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Asbestos is “fine” as long as the fibres aren’t released into the atmosphere. The problems mostly occur when people break it (which happens during construction and demolition) and when they mine it too.

      Given how dangerous it is, the most shocking thing to me about this story is that anybody still digs it out of the ground. I previously thought it was banned pretty much everywhere.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        It’s a useful material. Dangerous, but useful. Like dynamite, pesticides and radioactive sources. Handle with due care – and if you don’t know what “due care” is necessary, or you don’t know what you’re dealing with, pass the job to a professional.

  22. James
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    I stopped reading at the “I heard” part. You work at a university. Please talk to your geology department.

    Asbestos isn’t a thing. There is no “asbestos” in geology–in the same way there is no “iron ore” in geology. There are multiple types of asbestos, each of which is slightly different and each of which affects the body in different ways. Serpentine is an asbestos mineral, for example. It’s also a semi-precious gem.

    As I recall (and again, please please PLEASE talk to your local mineralogist about this) there are two broad categories, which I remember as spears and spirals (full disclosure: I’m a paleontologist who also does environmental remediation; this isn’t my strong suite, but I do recall this specifically being discussed). Spears are the ones that have the most acute effect on humans, because they, well, spear us–or, more accurately, our cells. This builds up scar tissue, causes cancer, and all the rest. Spirals, in contrast, generally can’t do as much damage. We tend to cough them out. Not good in large doses, but not IDLH either.

    All of this presumes that the asbestos is friable. If it’s NOT friable, it’s not an issue. You have to expose the lung tissue to asbestos for it to be problematic, and if you can’t inhale it, you aren’t exposed to it, and it’s as dangerous as asphalt, glass, or a fork. It’s LESS dangerous (if not friable) than a TV screen.

    FYI, all of this is equally applicable to silica. OSHA has declared that silica dust (ie, microsilica; ie, friable silica, to compare it to asbestos) to be hazardous, in exactly the same way–microsilica can cause lung damage (silicosis), which mimics the problems with asbestos (mesothelioma).

    I’m not defending Trump here. I’m just saying, people view asbestos as somehow magically dangerous. It’s not. It’s a hazardous material, sure–but so are bleach, lye, acetone, dry ice, and sand (at least the broken bits that create the dust you see when you pour it). When I worked in fast food, my boss accidently mixed oven cleaner and bleach–on two occasions–creating a chlorine gas cloud that required us to evacuate the building. If you think you don’t have dangerous chemicals in your home, you don’t understand the chemicals you use in your home. If you think asbestos is uniquely hazardous NEVER get a NIOSH handbook–reading the placards on trucks on highways is a good way to have a panic attack. And NEVER look into bug spray. I know a guy who worked on a plant where they manufactured the stuff. “Horrifying” doesn’t begin to describe it–this stuff makes “Night of the Living Dead” look like a romantic comedy. I have a fairly strong stomach, and I had to stop eating lunch when he started describing the effects.

    I have worked at numerous sites with asbestos. It’s in gaskets in pretty much every military base that existed prior to the 1970s/1980s; TODAY I was within five feet of a suspected asbestos-containing material. And it’s been irrelevant to me and my work. Don’t be stupid–don’t break open a gasket–and you don’t even need to be in any protective gear (modified Level D doesn’t count; that’s just construction). This stuff doesn’t emit a magical, evil aura; it is toxic for a specific reason. If we can find ways to mitigate or eliminate that reason, it can’t cause damage and we can safely use it, just as we safely use far, far worse chemicals every day. If we can do that, I see no reason it can’t play a role in our society. Again, we already use numerous toxic chemicals every day.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be stupid? Sure…that’s a great offense.

      I can’t believe people are still rationalizing this shit.

      • Posted August 9, 2018 at 5:06 am | Permalink

        “Don’t be stupid” was used in the context of mishandling asbestos. You shouldn’t take it as a personal insult.

        I don’t understand what you mean by “rationalising this shit”. Everything in the comment is factually correct as far as I can tell. If you know different, why not explain with an equally well thought out counter comment?

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

      Again, we already use numerous toxic chemicals every day.

      As an addendum: I don’t, and it’s not difficult to not do so. You are a cynic. Cool. I just have never been convinced.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

        You never used drain cleaner, or mould remover? Like, the ones that contain hypochlorite and give off chlorine gas?


        I bet you use your car – gasoline is of course moderately toxic (if you drink it) and your car exhaust contains plenty of carbon monoxide.
        Not to mention the coolant (glycol), brake fluid, and the lead and sulphuric acid in the battery…

        It’s just that we’re used to dealing with such common items that we take it for granted.


        • Mark R.
          Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

          Oh I have used all that shit. I don’t now.


          I guess I’m weird. I let shit grow. And use mechanical means. You know how I cleaned the master shower growing mold and fungi black shit? Power washer!!! Just water.

          Yes I drive. You’re just being cynical, as if we can’t do anything to curb our chemical intake. Do something is what I say. Make the world less chemically infected. Is that such a horrible endeavor? Perhaps for you…not me.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:20 am | Permalink

            And if you get mould on the ceiling of your kitchen or bedroom? But maybe you just don’t live in a humid region.


          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:25 am | Permalink

            P.S. ‘Chemically infected’? Chemicals do not ‘infect’ things. And everything is comprised of chemical elements. You’re starting to sound dreadfully like those woo-ish people who go on about ‘natural’ substances.

            I’m more concerned about the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – and ‘carbon footprint’. Whether your power washer creates more carbon footprint in its manufacture and energy use than my bottle of Exit Mould is something I don’t know.


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

          gasoline is of course moderately toxic (if you drink it)

          I spent several months volunteering for the trade union, putting together the technical case for trying to get in industrial injury tribunal hearing for a guy who died of Goodpasture Syndrome, his widow thinking it was a consequence of his decade or so working at a petrol station. You don’t need to drink gasoline (petroleum spirit) for it to destroy your kidneys – inhaling the fumes at low levels is more than enough. And it’s not a nice death.
          She got brought off – I don’t know how much for, but the industry really deeply did not want this to go to trial.

          and your car exhaust contains plenty of carbon monoxide.

          Not if you have a road-legal catalytic converter.
          Yes – Hollywood and the like do still show people dieing like this. It’s a useful myth because it gives potential suicides a readily accessible “cry for help” method of low lethality.

      • Mikeyc
        Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

        Yes you do Mark. Every day. Drive a car? Use a computer? Have a cell phone? You’re using some very dangerous chemicals.

        James is correct that asbestos is a dangerous substance that can be used safely, just as the hazardous stuff in your car, computer and phone can be.

        I would add though that just because it can be used safely doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tightly regulate it’s use, even to the point of banning it, and that’s where this decision is bad. Not only has EPA said they’re going to stop monitoring the environment for this and other hazards (what in holy hell do they think the “E” in their name means?) allowing asbestos back into the market necessarily puts workers at risk who are mining, refining and manufacturing things with it. That risk is very high and, I think, unjustifiable.

        • Mikeyc
          Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

          Dang. Got ninja’d

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:32 am | Permalink

          I’d agree with that.

          Asbestos has certain advantages as an engineering material (so does lead, so does cadmium, so does vinyl chloride); that has to be balanced against the health risks. In the case of asbestos, it may not be worth the risk.


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! I was going to comment along similar (if less well-informed) lines.

      Everyone seems to panic at the mention of ‘asbestos’ but, like so many chemicals, it’s a matter of degree, concentration, and context. For example, hydrogen sulphide (the ‘rotten egg’ smell you get from sewage and in thermal areas) is actually as toxic as cyanide – and it has killed people in specific uncommon circumstances. Yet people don’t run screaming when they get a whiff of ‘sewage smell’.

      Asbestos fibre, as a reinforcing material in asbestos cement sheets, had unique advantages in making the sheets much more rigid and strong than other available fibres. This had practical advantages in that you could build a deck, for example, with 1/2″ thick ‘asbestos’ panels that were light enough to handle in 8′ by 4′ sheets. (Replacement materials would have to be 3/4″ thick to span the same between purlins and so, 50% heavier. As I know to my cost). Unfortunately there is the health hazard from cutting the panels.
      One could say the same about lead paint (extremely effective in its anti-corrosion properties) and cadmium plating of screws and bolts.


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 11, 2018 at 7:04 am | Permalink

        For example, hydrogen sulphide (the ‘rotten egg’ smell you get from sewage and in thermal areas)

        How many people today have actually smelled a rotten egg? Every time I hear that comparison, I cringe – because to most people it is completely meaningless.
        Calibration gas ampoules for H2S sensors have an expiry date (trace oxygen in the balance gas can oxidise the H2S to SO2, rendering it useless as a calibration). Check your supplies and sacrifice the oldest stock from the cupboard to the “training budget”.

        is actually as toxic as cyanide – and it has killed people in specific uncommon circumstances.

        EVERY time in the last decade that I’ve had to present the H2S course on the rig (either by myself, or as an adjunct to the people supplying BA and cascades), in addition to digging out some training materials (see above), I do a search for a recent fatality resulting from H2S poisoning in the relevant audience’s home region. I have NEVER needed to look more than a few hundred miles away or more than a year back.
        They’re not particularly uncommon circumstances – any enclosed tank with organic materials. Farm pig shit storage tanks are really popular (they’re also very good for getting multiple fatalities in one family – Dad collapses in the tank ; son goes to help and collapses ; joint funeral). Cleaning out a grain silo at a local distillery took out 3 people just a month before I received my first H2S course – which is why “enclosed space” work is always a full safety audit task. Paper-pulping mills are good ones too – and provide the best evidence I know of for chronic H2S poisoning being an abortifacient. The slurry pits in slaughterhouses get really lovely too and take out people on a regular basis.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:00 am | Permalink

      Same with lead. Carbon black. Certain form of chromium. Where should we end the list?


      This misses the point. The world – the environment- is not a carefully regulated place of employment with placards and safety spill kits growing on trees, and 99% accurate detection tests you can run with a smartphone to check if there’s asbestos in your yard.

      When material gets exposed outside it’s engineered barrier it tends to get everywhere, and in everything, and keeps going until it’s the new background level. Have you ever heard of superfund sites? Yes you have.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      reading the placards on trucks on highways is a good way to have a panic attack

      So, I was hitchhiking up to the mountains one day – 15 or so years old, as you do – sitting in the passenger seat and chatting to the driver. As you do. When I read the placards on the side of the 38 tonner tanker we were overtaking, and advoided the driver that this particular vehicle would be best seen in the rear view mirror.
      38 tonnes of lorry an anhydrous hydrofluoric acid. Lovely. Ever done a “mixed-acid” prep for organic-wall microfossils? Yeah, that jungle juice.
      200 miles and a couple of lifts up the road … all the traffic of the 6-lane highway was being funneled through the mediaeval heart of a fortified city. The streets were lined with bleary-eyed cops pulled in from their beds, because they were on night shift. It took us 4 hours to make the 6 miles of progress from one end of the town back onto the highway. The local press had got a “special number” out – fast work! – with photos and an article on the tanker crash which had spilled it’s load across both carriageways, and which was dissolving the road bed. Same lorry, same load.
      On a scale from zero to “juggling practice”, this is definitely stuff best seen with a red shift.

  23. samatvapeace
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 9:31 pm | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:38 am | Permalink

      I rather like that the Russian version of Trump is ‘Trampom’ 🙂


      • imil42
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        It’s not a version of name, it’s the word case.
        Trump = Трамп (Trump)
        By Trump = Трампом (Trumpom)
        To Trump = Трампу (Trumpoo)
        and a few others

  24. Posted August 7, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Trump is ignorant and proud of it.

  25. Hempenstein
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Doped with Novichok, it works even better.

  26. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Well, Drumpf was half-right about the World Trade Center. It would still have burned just as vigorously (the fire load would have been unchanged) but it just possibly might not have collapsed if the steelwork had been better insulated with impact-resistant fireproof material. Of course, there are fireproofing materials that do not contain asbestos.

    Bearing in mind the enormous costs of removing asbestos from structures, which has caused perfectly serviceable old buildings, railway locomotives and carriages, etc to be condemned purely on economic grounds, it would be very unwise for anyone building new today to incorporate asbestos insulation lest the ban be reimposed in future decades.

    My house has asbestos cement sheet panels around the lower storey. They’re okay as long as they’re painted and you don’t attack them with a grinder. There are many asbestos watermains still in use – again, they’re okay as long as they stay wet and don’t create dust.


    • Mark R.
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but you need to evacuate and get that shit out. You’re probably infected already. You say they’re okay. How do you know? Do you have microscopes for eyes? Even insects can disrupt the stuff. Get a clue dude. I’m not kidding. Any dislodging of the contagion can kill you. Yeah, might take a decade or two, but it will compound anything you already have. And we all have something.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:11 am | Permalink

        Ohmigods I’m doomed.

        What with the asbestos, and the lead paint that surrounded me for half a century, oh yes, and all those benzene-containing aromatic compounds that used to be around, I’m surprised I’m still around.

        I’m not going to grind it and breathe the dust. Just like I’m not going play with mercury out of old thermometers or stick my fingers in the power sockets to check if the current is on.


      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

        Sorry, but you need to evacuate and get that shit out.


        You’re probably infected already.

        It’s not an infectious agent, it’s a mineral. It doesn’t breed, it doesn’t travel by itself and it doesn’t spread from person to person. You’re hysterical.

        You say they’re okay. How do you know? Do you have microscopes for eyes?

        No, I have microscopes in addition to my eyes. For this task, you need to set the sub-stage condenser to produce convergent light and use a reasonably high (400x or better) magnification. I didn’t spend 4 years getting a degree in geology AND mineralogy to let arrant nonsense like this go un-challenged.

        Even insects can disrupt the stuff.


        Any dislodging of the contagion can kill you.

        It’s not a contagion. It’s a mineral.

        but it will compound anything you already have.

        Tosh. The mode of action is well understood. It’s not significantly cross-reactive.

    • Christopher
      Posted August 7, 2018 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

      About those shingles, I have the same, all over my little crap hole of a house. The damn things are fragile, making it a pain to do anything around them. I was required to replace all the ones that had broken by the insurance company and tried like hell to avoid breaking more of them. No dice. I had to pull the entire bottom layer off all around the house. Now I have a pile of them in my shed (also covered partly with them), whole and broken. They’re a pain in the ass, no matter what the safety of them may or may not be. If I get any work done on the outside, it’ll cost me extra due to state regulations, or I can risk my life and do it myself, no regulations, so long as they stay on my property. Go figure. Fingers crossed my crappy shack doesn’t kill me.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 8, 2018 at 12:18 am | Permalink

        Well in my case they’re sheet panels, around the base of the house and the garage. They’re brittle but not fragile. They wouldn’t cost me a fortune to replace, biggest snag would be that the framing is for 8′ by 4′ and NZ is now metricated so 1200 x 2400 doesn’t quite fit the gap.

        It would probably cost me far more to dispose of them (under the regulations blah blah) than the new panels would. Cheapest thing is just to leave ’em in place.


        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted August 9, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          Use them as hardcore for the foundations of the next significant bit of construction you do. In the ground and mixed with concrete is probably far and away the safest thing to do with them.
          The only different thing that sending them to a registered HAZMAT landfill would do is generate a lot of expensive paperwork before they get shoved in the ground and maybe covered in concrete.
          Until you have some construction on the agenda, leave them in place.

  27. Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    And how is this relevant to Why Evolution Is True? Well, it has affected the field of evolutionary biology. Stephen Jay Gould was one of the rare survivors of mesothelioma, apparently benefiting from chemotherapy and surviving 20 years, to succumb to another cancer. And John Maynard Smith died in 2004 of mesothelioma.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I didn’t know that, I always thought that his mesothelioma caught up with him in the end. But indeed it was adenocarcinoma of the lung that killed him.
      Note that adenocarcinoma of the lung can also be caused by asbestos, although smoking is considered the most important risk factor.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      Evolutionarily, we can safely deduce that fine asbestiform fibres are not a common occurrence pre-industrially, to the extent that thee is no selective advantage to developing mechanisms of cellular machinery less prone to disruption by such fibres.
      Hmmmm, With LUCA (Last Universal Common Ancestor) being something over 3.5 Gyr ago, it would have developed in something upwards of 2 times the present background radiation (quite possibly upwards of 3x). Which is an argument that our basic cellular machinery can probably handle significantly higher background radiation levels than we survive in today. Hmmm, that’s worth thinking about a bit.

      • Posted October 6, 2018 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        However, we have a genome far larger than that of LUCA, hence we need lower mutagen levels. I agree that we can “survive” higher background radiation levels, because society can still function even if life expectancy drops.

    • Diane G
      Posted August 10, 2018 at 12:06 am | Permalink

      Jerry does mention this in his post. (Only about Gould, though.

  28. Charlie
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 5:48 am | Permalink

    I’d like to note that there are two basic types of asbestos: Serpentine and amphibole. As far as I know, the serpentine varieties of asbestos do not cause cancer, whereas the amphibole varieties are extremely carcinogenic. (Breathing lots of fibers of the serpentine asbestos will cause asbestosis, just as breathing lots of coal dust causes black lung.)

    In the US the serpentine variety is far more common. When they test for asbestos, they look under a microscope for any blue fibers, which indicate the presence of the amphibole variety. Unfortunately, it seems that the toxic variety is often present, usually (I think) at low levels.

    What I do not know is whether the toxic amphibole varieties occur naturally with the serpentine asbestos or whether they were mixed as asbestos from different mines was processed for architectural applications.

    I’m sure the Trump administration does not care about any of these details, but I’d think the only way industry would proceed is if they can avoid the clear threat from lawsuits from mesothelioma cases. Mesothelioma is ONLY caused by the amphibole asbestos, so the link to asbestos exposure is clear and thus potentially very expensive.

    • Charlie
      Posted August 8, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      I did a bit more research, and there is a review article published in 2011 that summarizes evidence that the serpentine form of asbestos can also cause mesothelioma.

  29. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted August 8, 2018 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    When looking at that Algerian football game, your first reaction is ‘no wonder they are not in the finals of the World Cup’. However, I’m sure we can find other monumental misses in other countries.
    Nearly as bad was Arjen Robben missing 2 open chances with just the keeper between him and the goal in the World Cup final in 2010. Maybe not as blatant, but twice in a row. And it lost the Netherlands the World Cup.

  30. jahigginbotham
    Posted August 9, 2018 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    It is nice to see a few people here taking a realistic attitude towards asbestos. We are all exposed to numerous toxic, carcinogenic, and otherwise harmful materials every day. And that includes biologic items such as harmful molds etc. The goal is to minimize exposure; “the dose makes the poison”.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 9, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      The goal is to minimize exposure; “the dose makes the poison”.

      Paracelsus? Yep.

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